Undergraduate Program of Study

HS100 class visiting the Putnam Gallery.

The Concentration in History and Science

What is History and Science?

About 50 years ago, C. P. Snow, the English scientist and novelist, described science and humanistic studies as “two cultures” – increasingly distinct and mutually incomprehending.  His recommended solution was basically more science in a traditional curriculum that was then biased towards the humanities.  The study of the history of science, and the History and Science concentration, offer another solution – a way of engaging with the sciences as intensely human and cultural activities.  How have past cultures conceived of the natural world and ways of knowing about that world?  What effects have different cultural settings had on the development of science? How, in turn, have science, and the related practices of medicine and technology, shaped our culture and our practical ways of living?

What are my options in the History and Science concentration?

The concentration has a two-track structure that provides students with great flexibility.  Both of the tracks offer an honors and a non-honors option.

The Science and Society track is designed for students who have an interest in doing significant course work in an area of science but who also want to study how science develops and affects the world:  how it relates to industry, policy, politics and the broader culture. This track is especially attractive for students who are considering a career in public health, medicine, or science policy. Students can both do science and explore how science functions in society. A special honors focus within this track, called "Medicine and Society," allows students to fulfill many of their pre-medical school requirements while doing sustained work in the history of medicine, health policy, and medical ethics.

The History of Science track offers students the possibility of studying the history and social relations of science more broadly and intensively, but it does not require students to take science courses. This track may interest students wanting to study science as a historically situated and thoroughly human endeavor.  By taking a combination of courses from our department and also outside of it, students can learn how sciences as diverse as theoretical physics and economics function in society and with such other areas of culture as literature, film, and art.

Regardless of the track chosen, every concentrator will take History of Science 100 (Knowing the World: An Introduction to the History of Science), which is offered in the fall semester.  In addition, every concentrator will take one semester of sophomore tutorial and one semester of junior tutorial, taught by faculty members and teaching fellows from the Department of the History of Science.

What can students do with a History and Science degree?

The answer is “everything and anything.” A History and Science concentration closes few, if any, future career options. Our graduates have gone on to successful careers in many areas, including medicine, law, journalism, government, business, finance, and academia. Employers are increasingly looking for graduates who are not just literate but also analytically skilled in the social sciences, not just technically skilled in a special subject but able to see the larger cultural, social, and policy implications and impact of scientific and technical developments.

History and Science students have done extremely well in winning fellowships, including the Marshall, Rhodes, Mellon, Fulbright, Rockefeller, Rotary, Sheldon, Gates-Cambridge, Hoopes, and Ford Foundation Research grants, and are encouraged to apply for these and others. Please see the Office of Career Services website for information about the broad range of fellowships and grants available to students.


Program Highlight:
The Sophomore Tutorial

History and Science

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